A major retrospective exhibition of the work of the distinguished Irish painter Louis le Brocquy opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 16 October. Louis le Brocquy: Paintings 1939-1996, the first retrospective showing of his work in Ireland since 1966, comprises more than 90 paintings, including early works, group portraits, head studies, the procession series and human presences. The exhibition will be officially opened by the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, at 6pm on Tuesday 15 October 1996.
Louis le Brocquy: Paintings 1939-96 provides the first opportunity in 30 years to see an exhibition of le Brocquy’s work on this scale in Dublin and, for those more familiar with the work of the last few decades, to see the foundation paintings of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Bringing together an unprecedented number of early paintings, it explores the clear and rigorous critical path along which le Brocquy’s work has developed over the past 50 years from his early links with artists like Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone, who first created and sustained an argument of modernism in Ireland to the later influences of post-war French art. It also demonstrates how this European tradition of painting and the human presence, with its echoes of Celtic and pre-modern influences, became and remain crucial to his practice. The latter has been most tellingly realised in his famous head portraits of writers from Shakespeare through Yeats, Joyce and Beckett to Seamus Heaney, the genesis of which can be seen in his earlier paintings where the figures, although grouped together, appear strangely isolated. This engagement with a contemporary European tradition within older strands of cultural continuity is crucial to an understanding of le Brocquy’s achievement in art.
Louis le Brocquy was born in Dublin in 1916. A self-taught artist, he left the family business in 1938 to become a painter studying on his own at the National Gallery in London, the Louvre in Paris, and in Venice and Geneva (then exhibiting the Prado’s collection). In 1947 he moved to London and began a long and successful association with the Gimpel Fils Gallery. He exhibited at Gimpel Fils that year, the first of some 50 international one-person exhibitions. In 1956 he won a major international prize at the Venice Biennale. Two years later he married the painter Anne Madden and has since lived and worked in France and Ireland.
The exhibition continues the series of retrospectives of Irish artists such as Mainie Jellett and Patrick Swift which IMMA has presented since 1991. These have been presented in the context of other retrospectives by key figures in 20th-century art like Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti and Richard Hamilton and form an important part of IMMA’s programme.
A fully-illustrated catalogue, with a substantial essay, interweaving the artists life and work, by Alistair Smith, Director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, is being published to coincide with the show.
Louis le Brocquy: Paintings 1939-96 continues until 16 February 1997.
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